The Denver Broncos have been dealing with poor play from the center position for a few years. During the 2022 pre-draft process, the Broncos met with multiple centers, making it seem like they worked hard to upgrade the position.
Unfortunately, the Broncos missed out on drafting any of the centers they met with but did land Luke Wattenberg. When it comes to the battle for the center position, how much is the rookie part of that competition?
Let's dive into his football resume to divine the answer.
Wattenberg will turn 25 years old just after the start of the regular season. He was born in California and went north to attend the University of Washington for college as a four-star recruit.
Getting his first action in 2017, Wattenberg mainly played at left tackle with some reps at left guard. He played 408 snaps that year, allowing 17 pressures and two sacks.
For both the 2018 and 2019 seasons, Wattenberg was a full-season starter at left guard. Over the two seasons, he played 1,846 snaps with 34 total pressures and one sack relinquished in each campaign (two total).
As each of his first three years passed, what stood out was how Wattenberg was improving as a run blocker. On top of that, his smarts, movement skills, and general athleticism were effective on the field.
The 2020 season saw Wattenberg start the four games Washington played due to the pandemic. Each start came as the center, playing 263 total snaps over the four games. He only allowed QB pressures in two of the four games, with three total over those two games.
Overall, it was a solid showing, despite the limited action. However, more was needed as the consistency wasn't there for NFL teams.
Wattenberg's final season in 2021 saw him start every game at center and allow 13 pressures with one sack. It was the only year where Pro Football Focus graded him above 70 with his overall grade, run-blocking grade, and pass-blocking grade.
After the season, Wattenberg started his draft process with an invitation to the East/West Shrine Game. It was a solid week, but there were some drills in which he didn't hold his own. He was struggling against strength in one-on-one drills.
Fortunately, Wattenberg had a good game playing both left guard and center. He allowed zero pressures and put together good tape as a run blocker.
At the NFL Scouting Combine, Wattenberg had a good showing. His athleticism was apparent on tape, and he put up numbers as expected or better. It led to his 9.59 relative athletic score, which was the third-highest among centers this year.
However, concerns about his strength remained, causing him to drop until the 171st overall pick for the Broncos.
There is a competition at the center position, but it would take a dramatic improvement from Wattenberg to really factor into the starting conversation. The battle is between Lloyd Cushenberry III and Graham Glasgow based on OTAs.
That would suggest that Wattenberg will be given the year to develop and grow as a player, then potentially be part of the competition for the center position next year. However, the new Broncos offensive line coach, Butch Barry, is relatively unproven in the NFL.
It seems that Wattenberg will make the roster but as a depth piece. After that, he must keep working and get himself ready for the competition before the 2023 season.
Follow Erick on Twitter @ErickTrickel.
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